Among many, many other things, Quentin Tarantino is known for putting together a soundtrack. Critics have crowed about how majestic the Pulp Fiction soundtrack is, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that his best-compiled set of songs are all in Kill Bill, Volume 1 (I can’t vouch for Volume 2; I didn’t much care for 1, so I didn’t see it). Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” could easily be the subject of this post, as well as a good chunk of The RZA’s work on the score, but no. We’re not going to talk haunting, lovely ballads of betrayal this time.
We’re gonna talk horns.
Tomoyasu Hotei – “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t care much for Kill Bill; I’m a wuss about super-gratuitous movie violence, even at its most cartoony. What I did enjoy, however, was a certain scene in Japan. You know the scene. Think back to 2004, about all of the trailers and promotional footage you may have seen regarding Kill Bill. You know that song, the one that starts out with the small guitar riff, that builds until—out of nowhere—the horn section and percussion come in and hit you like a ton of bricks?
That’s this song.
Many movies I enjoy feature heroes walking in slow motion. Sometimes it’s away from an explosion, sometimes it’s towards the camera, sometimes it’s because they took an extra arrow to the sternum. This is the scene all of those scenes want to be when they grow up. Never, ever have I seem something that makes the simple act of walking so incredibly bad ass. There is nothing to this scene; O-Ren Ishii and her posse simply walk into a Japanese bar. The only thing this scene has going for it is its editing and soundtrack, and OH MAN do they make a difference.
The coolest thing about “Battle Without Honor or Humanity?” The snare. Specifically, the reverb of the snare. There’s something about the way the drum hits—perhaps it’s the way the drums are mixed, perhaps it’s how the snare is tightened. Whatever it is, it’s one of the coolest sounds I’ve ever heard. As a lover of drum tracks in most songs (a loved honed through years of Rock Band), “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” is an absolute feast for the ears.
For those that missed it, here it is:
Fun bit of trivia: Kill Bill wasn’t the first time I became acquainted with Tomei-san’s work. I used to be a big J-pop fan, and he produced a track for my favorite J-artist, Nanase Aikawa, called “No Future.” Similar to “Battle,” I was head-over-heels in love with the song’s snare drums. Some things never change.